Arsenal 0 – 0 Chelsea: Dreadful game, disappointing result, good weekend

Match Report | Highlights | Arsene’s reaction

I was furious at how Arsenal allowed the game to pass them by…
Chelsea are already in one major cup final, and could make it two.  This was, in many respects, our equivalent.  After defeat against Wigan, a win was required to restore momentum and build a protective cushion between us and the chasing pack.  I was bang up for this game, and had been excited all week.  However, from the first five minutes I couldn’t help but think that the players didn’t feel the same.  The game opened with a prolonged period of possession from the Arsenal back four, knocking it back and forth across the width of the pitch – there was no pressure from Chelsea’s attack, and little intent of driving forward from Arsenal.

It made for an incredibly dull game…
It burst briefly in to life at the latter end of each half, with Arsenal making most of the running, but it was more the most part an uninspiring affair.  It had the feel of an end-of-season game in which nothing was at stake.  And yet, bizarrely, there was a huge opportunity for both sides to secure a vital three points.  Neither team was at the races, and the game was there to be won for anyone who could find an extra gear.  However both sides seem to play with, as the Arsene Wenger might say, the “handbrake on”.

Arsenal’s midfield lacked shape and authority…
Mikel Arteta was a huge miss.  He is disciplined in his positioning, and intelligent in his use of the ball.  At the best of times, Aaron Ramsey isn’t really either of those things, and out of form and out of position he fell well shot of the Spaniards standards.  Alex Song was also poor alongside him, and Chelsea looked relatively comfortable in the middle of the park.

Abou Diaby could have a big part to play…
I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him taking the field with half an hour or so to play, but I was impressed in flashes.  With Arteta out for the rest of the season, Diaby (and indeed Francis Coquelin, who is also fit again) could be a key figure between now and the end of May.

That said, we did have chances…
With a fresher Robin van Persie, we’d probably have won the game.  Laurent Koscielny also struck the bar with a free header, and if any side was going to win it I was sure it’d be us – partly because of the inexplicable selfishness of Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge, who ruined several counter-attacks by failing to make obvious passes to team-mates.

I was possibly a little harsh on the team…
I’m sure they were up for it.  I’m sure they wanted to win.  We’re probably just a little jaded.  Due to injuries and lack of quality options, we have not been able to rotate the side much all season long.  Inevitably, we’re suffering a little for that in the final straight.

Spurs’ defeat made it a better weekend…
Every time I expect Tottenham’s form to pick up, they confound me with yet another disastrous result.  Their form is so patchy that Newcastle are arguably now the greatest threat to our third-placed position.  Arsenal have three games to go – our next, a trip to Stoke, is arguably the toughest.  That said, none of the three sides we face (Stoke, Norwich, WBA) have much to play for.  We should aim for nothing less than nine points, though I suspect six will be enough to claim third spot.

RVP is a deserving Player of the Year…
Despite his recent ill-fortune in front of goal, he has been a cut above everyone else in the Premier League this season, and is richly deserving of following in the foot-steps of the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp by being voted the PFA Player of the Year.  There can be few greater honours than being recognised by your fellow professionals, and I hope this individual gong will be followed by the trophies his class richly deserves – with Arsenal, of course.

Gunnerblog is the brainchild of childbrained football writer James McNicholas. Aside from Gunnerblog, James currently contributes to Bleacher Report, The Mirror and ESPN.